- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

On a superhot summer day, most people yearn to cool off at a pool or beach — but how about skating at an indoor ice rink, where the temperature is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit?

“You’d think people would come here to cool off, but we’re just not on people’s minds in the summertime,” says Kathy Cox, executive director at the Fort Dupont Ice Arena in Southeast. “Our busiest months for public skating are November, December and January.”

The rink, located on 376 rolling acres of national parkland, including community gardens, trails, tennis courts, football fields, an amphitheater and picnic grounds, is booked solid year-round by organized groups such as junior hockey teams, summer camps, school teams and groups of figure skaters and speed skaters.

Even during public skating — which is held Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons — up to 200 skaters at a time share the facility’s one rink, which has a panoramic view of the District to the west, including the Capitol dome and the Washington Monument.

Advanced skaters use the center of the rink, and all others share the outer area of the ice. No sticks or pucks are allowed during public skating.

“And we always have skate guards on hand to help people out,” Ms. Cox says.

Those skate guards — staff and volunteers — are available to help skaters with their form and to prevent accidents and injuries.

Another way to encourage good form and prevent injuries is to make sure skaters lace their skates tightly (rentals are available) and all the way to the top, that they wear gloves for warmth and safety, and that they don helmets, Ms. Cox says.

Everyone is welcome during public skating times, but Ms. Cox says parents should be aware that children 4 years old and younger need constant one-on-one attention.

“They just don’t have the balance yet,” she says.

For that reason, the rink’s various programs are geared toward children age 5 and older, she says.

The Fort Dupont Ice Arena is the only year-round rink in the District and draws people from near and far, Ms. Cox says. During the winter, two smaller outdoor rinks are open: the Sculpture Garden ice rink on the Mall and the Pershing Park rink at Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street Northwest.

“We get a real mix of people,” she says. “We have people from Capitol Hill who come and skate in the morning and then put their suits on and go to work. We have police officers, hockey teams from schools like Gonzaga [high school] and St. Alban’s, and we have neighborhood kids,” she says.

She emphasizes that everyone is welcome, in many cases even if they can’t pay. The rink is located in Ward 7, in a lower-income area.

“We’re part of the community,” she says. “We try to accommodate everyone. That’s what we’re about.”

When you go

Here’s a list of a few area rinks to take the edge off summer’s heat:

• Fort Dupont Ice Arena, 3779 Ely Place SE, Washington; 202/587-5007; www.fdia.org. Public skating: noon to 1:50 p.m. Friday, 3 to 4:50 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 to 4:20 p.m. Sunday. Fees: $2 for skate rentals, $4 for skaters age 13 through 64, $3 for skaters age 65 and older and skaters age 12 and younger. A snack bar is available.

• Cabin John Ice Rink, 10610 Westlake Drive, Rockville; 301/365-0585; www.cabinjohnice.com. Public skating is offered daily; call for specific times. Fees: $3 plus tax for skate rentals, $3 for skaters age 3 and 4, $5 for skaters ages 5 through 10 and 60 and older, $6 for skaters age 11 and older. Various discounts are available; call for specifics. The arena features several rinks and offers several programs and classes. A snack bar is available.

• The Gardens Ice House, 13800 Old Gunpowder Road, Laurel; 410/792-4947; www.thegardensicehouse.com. Public skating offered several times a week; call for specific times. Fees: $3.50 for skate rentals; $5 admission on weekdays and $6 admission on weekends; students and seniors receive a $1 discount, and children age 3 and younger pay no admission. Various programs and classes are offered. A cafe is available.

• Mount Vernon Ice Arena, 2017 Belle View Blvd., south of Alexandria; 703/768-3224; www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/rec/mv/mv-ice.htm. Public skating offered most days; call for specific days and times. Fees: $2.50 for skate rentals; admission costs range from $3 to $6 for skaters; call for details. Children age 4 and younger pay no admission. Various programs and classes are offered. Vending machines are available for snacks.

• SkateQuest-Reston, 1800 Michael Faraday Court, Reston; 703/709-1010; www.skatequest.com. Public skating offered daily; call for times. Fees: $3 for skate rentals; $6 admission. A cafe is available.

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